history and the resurrection – keeping the mystery
April 9, 2007
In preparing myself for resurrection Sunday I read through the resurrection passages in the four Gospels again. But, before I give a few thoughts on that, first something about our context.
South Africa did not miss the historical Jesus debate, although it did maybe hit us a bit late. So in the past few years we had quite a bit of trouble with people starting to accuse others of not believing in the resurrection anymore etc. Some of you might remember the Ferdie Mulder case. On that note, for those of you reading Afrikaans, maybe take a look at his view and that of the church here, here and here. But actually this is just a very hurtful part of my own history, if you skip all those links it might be best.
Anyway. So, this whole question keeps on being discussed in our church. Check out the letters page of the new Kerkbode, or their site. Not just in the church, Kevin wrote about this as well in one of his last posts. So the question keeps on raging forth. So you believe in the resurrection.
Actually, the question usually gets a little more complicated. Kevin talks about a person bodily rising from the dead, and when the debates where raging at our faculty, the type of thing these guys would usually ask would also be something like: “So you believe in the physical literal resurrection?“.
Well, so I went to read the gospels. This is just a survey of what I read. I read them in the order they most probably were written.
Verses 9-20 were most probably added later, so I’ll just concentrate on the first 8. Jesus is just gone. The big boulder before his grave is gone, and he is gone, and some young guy is sitting there, giving the message to the young woman.
You hava an earthquake, angels coming down, talking to the woman, and Jesus himself appears to them.
Up to this point none of the writers even try to explain how this can be, how it happened, or what kind of resurrection it was. Seemingly that wasn’t important. But Jesus is alive, that is the important part!
Again same story, woman at the grave, Jesus is gone. But this time Jesus appears to some people, but they don’t recognize him. Later he appears to the disciples, and eat some food so they can believe that he really lives.
Now the story gets a bit more explanatory. Jesus is gone, but when he appears he is recognized, still he appears and reappears though the doors are locked, but he asks Thomas to put his finger in the holes in his hands, and his hand in the wounds. And again Jesus eat with the disciples, although the comment in 21:12 that no one asked him “Who are you” intrigues me, and I don’t really know what to make of it.
Well, there is much better comparitive studies available. I’m not trying to rewrite theology here, this was just what I read. And my own way of seeing this?
Well, if we don’t believe in the resurrection simply because we haven’t seen that happening… well, I don’t know, isn’t part of the whole post-modern experience learning that what I have seen might not be all there is?
I don’t think the writers of the gospels try to explain how this is possible. Especially at the beginning of the church, when Mark and later Matthew was written. They just knew, Jesus lives, and that was enough. Whether it was with the same body or a different one, that didn’t really seem to bother then (that might even be true of even John). Luke and John try a bit harder to explain what happened, and that it wasn’t just some kind of illusion. But also they don’t really give us an answer as to how it happened.
This was resurrection Sunday. Jesus is alive. Precisely how that can be, I’m not sure about. Which kind of resurrection, I don’t really know. And I’m definitely not going to choose between a Matthean resurrection and a Johanine resurrection:-) Maybe I’ll just stick to “Jesus is alive”, stick to the mystery, acknowledge that I don’t know how this happened, and leave the arguing to people for whom it actually matters what the body looked like after the resurrection.
But hey, that’s just my take on it for the moment. How about you? How did you experience resurrection Sunday?